Oct. 10, 2023

UCalgary Graduate Demystifying Finance for All

Alum Kalee Boisvert brings financial literacy to those who used to be excluded from the conversation.
Kalee Banner

With more than 15 years of experience in finance, a passion for starting “healthy, positive conversations around wealth and investment,” and a natural flair matched only by her hot-pink boots, Kalee Boisvert, BComm’08, MBA’19, helps investors find their footing on their journey to financial empowerment. 

“It’s funny: I had thought of myself as this ‘Raymond James’ person with this official, blue branding I had to use,” says Boisvert, an advisor at Raymond James, a multinational financial firm. “No one ever says you have to be a certain way, but you just assume and it was great because this was first time I realized that I get to choose my own colours.” Out went the blue, in came the hot pink.

It’s a simple statement, but a powerful one when you consider Boisvert is a woman in the finance industry, one in which only 15 to 20 per cent of advisors are women. Combine these statistics with estimates that, by 2028, Canadian women will control $4 trillion in assets with studies showing that 70 per cent of women clients actually prefer to work with a woman advisor, and one can identify a massive gap waiting to be filled by women working in the sector.

Boisvert is also a published author, promoting financial literacy and accessibility to groups who are often ignored or excluded in financial conversations. Her book, “Make Money Your Thing (RE:BOOKS) is specifically aimed towards women looking to start their financial journey, and her most recent release, a children’s book titled Moneywise Mabel’s Bursting Bank (SparkPress) is a fun, easy-to-understand way to teach school-aged kids the fundamentals and concepts of money management.

I chose to become a financial advisor to empower and support women and put an end to their money-related stress,” says Boisvert. “I believe no woman should ever have to feel anxious about how to support themselves, their family or their futures.”

Kalee Portrait

Humble Beginnings Help in Sketching Out a Plan

Boisvert was inspired to become a financial advisor growing up as a daughter to a single parent. Seeing her mother’s financial struggles helped her develop her own mindset when it came to money; the idea that “no one should be limited by their financial situation.” Boisvert saw these struggles as a challenge, but something that could be overcome.

“Growing up, I felt like our financial troubles were something I could figure it out, like a math problem, ; something that I could solve, change and fix,” says Boisvert. “I couldn’t do much as a kid, but I knew that I could go to school and learn about financial topics, numbers and money. That’s why I ended up at [UCalgary], specifically in business at Haskayne [School of Business].”

Nothing came easy during her undergrad, ; working two jobs and double shifts to attain her goals was the norm. Being a supervisor at Pizza Hut and a cashier at Ikea allowed her to earn the means to pay her own tuition for her undergrad, without financial support from her family. During her third year, she enrolled in the Haskayne BComm Co-Operative Education Program, not just for the experience, but to help cover her tuition by doing three work terms at an accounting firm, as well as with an oil and gas company. 

After graduating and browsing the job postings on the Haskayne Career Development Centre website, she came upon a job as administrative support for an advisor at TD Waterhouse. Intrigued at the prospect of working with the stock markets, she felt compelled to start work in the financial sector, interviewed and got the job.    

“I was listening to [this advisor] on the phone and the conversations he was having and found myself thinking that I could do that,” Boisvert says. “I was his admin and support person at the time, but I knew I wanted to be an advisor because I felt like I could be doing the same things the [advisors] were, but with women and supporting women like my mom who needed and wanted that kind of help.”

Finding Her Own Colours

Working primarily with teams of men, Boisvert continued her journey at TD Waterhouse and later at RBC Dominion Securities until a 2015 maternity leave proved to be the catalyst for the change she was looking for. After years of being continually being told that women aren't as interested in finance and watching as the predominantly male advisors focused on the male clients and the hiring of other males, she found another inspiring reason to change the narrative.

“When I started with the banks, I wanted to talk to women and support women, but I just kept my head down, doing what I was doing,” says Boisvert. “But then I went on maternity leave with my daughter. I was a single mom right off the get-go with her and I thought to myself, ‘This is the moment.’ I had [my daughter] and I couldn't just keep going back to working on these teams of dudes where it felt like there were no opportunities for women.”

Inspired, Boisvert took a chance and “dove in headfirst” to starting on her own as an advisor at Raymond James in hopes that she could focus on the topics and people she wanted to work with, choose her own brand, market herself and do what she wanted to stand out (pink accessories and all).

“Raymond James was the only firm that would take me,” she recalls. “I put it out there that I wanted to be an advisor and build my own business, but no one else would give me a chance.

“It was a lot of rejection to deal with, but I didn't give up. I knew this was what I'm supposed to be doing.”

Kalee Portrait Pink Blazer

Walking the Walk

Wanting to test the idea of “women not being interested in finance,” and as a brand-new advisor fighting what she calls “archaic” stereotypes and starting out without a single client, Boisvert had yet another breakthrough. She began hosting unique in-person events just for women on different money topics.  

“My first one was Investing 101, and I was asking myself, what's going to bring women to this lunch?” Boisvert says. “First thing was that they were going to need to be nearby. So, I cold-called all the offices in our building at 8th Avenue Place downtown [to extend invitations]; I was mostly talking to reception, which often was a woman.”

What started with cold-call invites to basic finance lunch-and-learn events quickly began to spread virally through 8th Avenue Place.

“The first one, I was so nervous,” Boisvert recalls. “I was like, OK, what no one shows up? But people came! It hit noon and all these women came off the elevators and, after the session, women came up to me. They were excited and saying things like, “You broke down these concepts that I didn't really understand,” and, “It’s easy to digest,” and “I feel so comfortable now.”

Boisvert knew she had started something and continued to host her events monthly. As more participants shared the invites with colleagues, they continued to grow to the point where they were “standing room only in the boardroom at lunch time,” she says. The sessions were a resounding success, allowing her to gain experience, clients, and a bug for teaching and education. But a virus-sized roadblock was on its way.

Taking it in Stride

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought massive impacts. Unable to continue to host her Finance 101 sessions in-person but looking to maintain momentum, Boisvert pivoted once again. She decided to write her first book to broaden her reach to a larger group of women. Having little to no experience in publishing a book, Boisvert completed the first few chapters of what would become Make Money Your Thing! and developed her proposal.

“I really had no idea how to get it published, but I learned quickly that, without an agent, it is very difficult to find a publisher who will accept unsolicited manuscripts,” she says, recalling the effort taken to find an agent to represent her. “I was still building my business and taking care of my daughter, Ivy, during the day. And, in the evenings, they call it ‘querying,’ which means you’re sending out your manuscript and your proposal to agents by the hundreds.”

Despite receiving rejection after rejection, Boisvert continued to send her manuscript to anyone who would accept it. Finally, she received a positive response, not in the form of an agent, but rather an email from a woman from a publishing company that was putting on a contest to become a published author. Willing to try anything, Boisvert entered the contest. Months later, she was named one of three finalists for the grand prize. But, despite her focus and dedication, when the publisher announced the winner, it was not Boisvert.

“She called me, and she said it was such a close call between you and the other person, it was just a kind of a toss-up,” says Boisvert. “But she's like — here's the thing. I'm starting my own publishing firm and I want to publish your book!”

That woman was Canadian journalist-turned-author Rebecca Eckler, who was looking to start her own publishing company, RE:BOOKS, which was specifically trying to help women publish works of non-fiction. Eckler, known for her books about motherhood, knew first-hand how difficult the publishing industry can be for new authors to break in and sought to contribute to improving this through her own company.

Her vision meshed with Boisvert’s.

“I knew I had to write this book; I needed to get it out,” says Boisvert. “I always feel like, if inside you know you're supposed to do something, it's meant to be, and you just have to make sure it happens.”

Make Money Your Thing! finally came out in July of 2023, featuring a cover photo of Boisvert in her industry-standard-defying hot-pink boots.

Boisvert says achieving any of our goals is within our reach, if one starts by putting in the work, rejecting assumptions, following your instincts and rolling with the punches, one can achieve anything — even demystifying the world of investing in a pair of hot pink boots.

Kalee Portrait with Books

For more advice, Boisvert hosts the Wealth and Wellness podcast, which focuses on the link between a person’s net worth and self-worth. For more information about her books, Make Money Your Thing! and Moneywise Mabel’s Bursting Bank, be sure to visit kaleeboisvert.com.